Librarian’s Choice: My favourite books for under 5s

This blog comes from Debbie, a Community Librarian in the east of Leeds.

As anyone with small children will know, the Summer Holidays bring many challenges, including how to keep little ones entertained for the entire 6 weeks…that’s a massive 1008 hours. With that in mind, I thought I would compose a list of my all-time favourite books for under 5s. As a Librarian and a mother, I have read countless children’s books over the years. Here are the 5 books that have stood out to me and I have returned to time and time again.

Each peach pear plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Deb Each peachThis is my favourite children’s book of all time. Written and illustrated by the magical duo Janet and Allan Ahlberg. This booked is packed with wonderful illustrations of fairy tale characters such as Tom Thumb, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Mother Hubbard and many more. There is a little ‘I spy’ rhyme on each page and children can look for the hidden characters. The rhymes are repetitive so children can quickly anticipate what will come next and can easily learn to recite the book themselves. The book is told in easy rhyme, ‘Each,Peach, Pear Plum I spy Tom Thumb, Tom Thumb in the cupboard, I spy Mother Hubbard.

Each, Peach, Pear, Plumb takes us through a journey to find the hidden characters, but the real joy comes from discovering the other secrets hidden on each page. Children can continue the story themselves, using the many characters for inspiration. I have spent many evenings cuddled up with my children with this book and this is a book I will never tire of. This is a charming, sweet book that you will enjoy reading with your child over and over again.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler

Deb The GruffaloThe Gruffalo is my next favourite book. Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Scheffler, the Gruffalo is a classic book that will be loved by children and grown-ups for generations to come.

This book captures the imaginations of young minds. We are introduced to the characters- the Mouse, the Gruffalo, the Owl, the Fox, the Snake with the ‘innocent’ mouse as the main character. Throughout the book the Mouse shows his bravery and underlying cunningness to save himself from the various predators lurking ‘In the deep dark wood’. He is able to trick the various forest creatures into believing that he is in fact ‘the scariest creature in all the wood.’ The short rhymes and their repetitive structure make The Gruffalo a fun book to read aloud and children will quickly learn the words and be able to join in.

How the Library (not the Prince) saved Rapunzel by Wendy Meddour and Rebecca Ashdown

Deb How theThis is a lovely book with an inspiring message for younger readers. There are also many positive subtle messages that perhaps only the grown-ups will understand but using this a starting point to chat to children and develop the story gives this book many layers. The overall feeling for all readers in one of positivity.

It is so refreshing to see the damsel in distress (Rapunzel) ‘rescued’ by the library-and not the prince on horseback as we normally see. Lots of would be rescuers show their hand in this book, but alas only the library can save the day! The illustrations are bright, cheerful and engaging for readers and offer a fun and refreshing
background for the tale. The book is told in rhymes and a cast of multi-cultural characters that help set this book aside from most other ‘fairytales’. As a mother (and a Librarian), I am very impressed by the messages in this book as these echo the lessons I try to pass to my children,

“So don’t just wait for your prince to show.
He might turn up, but you never know.
Pop down to your library and borrow a book
There’s so much to find if only you look.”

Eat your peas: A Daisy book by Kes Gray and illustrated by Nick Sharratt

Deb Eat your peasMy daughter loved, loved, loved this book. This is the book I had to read over and over again.

Eat Your Peas is a funny tale of the battle of wills between Daisy (who really does not like peas) and her mum. Daisy’s mum tries everything to get her to eat her peas
resorting to bribing her with treats such as staying up later and skipping bath time. However as Daisy continues to refuse her peas, Mum’s promises start to become more and more elaborate, including offers of chocolate factories, elephants and bikes. But still Daisy refuses to eat her peas. Finally Daisy makes a suggestion. ‘I’ll eat my peas if you eat your Brussel Sprouts’. Simple. Except….Daisy’s mum replies ‘but I don’t like Brussel Sprouts.

This common problem of disliking certain food makes the story easy to relate to for
children. The repetition in the book is a fun way for the children to be involved often
calling out ‘but I don’t like peas’. The pictures a clear and vibrant and would be suitable for children of all ages.

We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrations by Helen Oxenby

Deb Bear HuntThis classic book is a favourite in many homes, nurseries, schools and libraries. There is a perfect mix of rhyme and repetition which engages children from the off and the anticipation of what will happen next is enough to keep children interested in the story from start to finish.

The story sees the determined family of 4 set off on their own bear hunt and tells how they overcome several obstacles in their way, until at last they manage to track down the bear. The story is simple and fun and easy for children to join in with. The descriptions of the obstacles in their way ‘swishy-swashy grass’ and ‘thick oozy mud’ lends itself to interactive and fun storytime session, with children being able to act out the story as they go along. Reading is meant to be fun and this book certainly is that.

#whatsyourstory – Meet Kim

kim-woodFull-time mum Kim Wood moved to Leeds seven years ago. With her husband working long hours and a new baby to look after, Kim felt isolated in a new area where she hardly knew anyone. She loved using her local library in Newcastle when she was growing up, so when she moved to Leeds she quickly sought out her local library. It’s proved a real lifeline for her and her three daughters; Sophie, Chloe and Phoebe. The girls are total bookworms and they love nothing more than coming to the library to read and explore new books – and taking home armfuls to read! Kim loves the variety of events happening at her local library and the chance to meet other parents and have some grown-up conversations! From storytimes to tea parties to food festivals, there’s always something fun going on that she can bring the family to. Using her local library has really helped Kim feel part of the community.

You don’t just have to take our word for it, here’s Kim telling you her story in her own words: https://youtu.be/C6uja0arxvw

Now you’ve met another of our Leeds Libraries ambassadors, could you be the next? If one of the many services available at Leeds Libraries has helped you, we want to know. Tweet us or write on our Facebook page using the hashtag #whatsyourstory, or email us at whatsyourstory@leeds.gov.uk, and let us know how we’ve helped you.

Storytime Advent

This lovely idea for enjoying reading with your little ones comes from Rachel, our children’s librarian based at Central library.

storytime-advent-calenderCreate your own storytime advent calendar this year, it’s easy and can be as cheap as you want to make it. All you need is 24 picture or board books individually wrapped and labelled with the date. Then each day of advent you and your child/children can open one and share the book throughout the day. It could be for their bedtime story or just a good excuse to have a cuddle on the sofa with it. It’s a great way to encourage reading because the unwrapping of the book will make it feel extra special. The best bit is that you can wrap up books you already have on their book shelf, go to the library and borrow a pile of books and if you want to add in a few that you have bought that’s fine too. Some old, some new and some borrowed, it’s up to you!

During this busy time of year getting that special 5-10 minutes together reading, laughing, relaxing, pointing out things in the pictures and asking questions about what going on is a lovely way to enjoy this festive season with your children. There are so many books to choose from at your local library and you can take 20 out on each library card but remember to renew them as the loan period is 3 weeks initially. They don’t have to be Christmassy, it completely up to you what you choose, here’s a few books we have enjoyed recently in our home to get you started.

rachel-togetherTogether… by Emma Dodd

This little sea otter loves spending time with his mummy – learning new things, playing together, or even just holding each other. In fact, every day this little sea otter spends with his mummy is special, just because they are together.

rachel-we-found-a-hatWe Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Two turtles have found a hat. The hat looks good on both of them. But there are two turtles. And there is only one hat!

rachel-grinch-stole-christmasHow the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Suess

When he spies the citizens of Who-ville enjoying their Christmas preparations, the Grinch comes down from his cave and makes a dastardly attempt to take all the joy out of the occasion by actually stealing Christmas.

rachel-ten-little-piratesTen Little Pirates by Mike Brownlow

Ten little pirates set out to sea in search of adventure. But what will the ten little pirates do when they meet a hurricane – and a giant squid – and a hungry shark? This fun-filled rhyming story, which incorporates counting backwards from ten to one, is great to share with young children who are learning about numbers. The colourful, humourous illustrations feature objects to spot and count on every page.

rachel-detective-dogThe Detective Dog by Julia Donaldson

There once was a dog with a keen sense of smell. She was known far and wide as Detective Dog Nell. Peter’s dog Nell has an amazing sense of smell. Whether it’s finding a lost shoe or discovering who did a poo on the new gravel path, her ever-sniffing nose is always hard at work. But Nell has other talents too. Every Monday she goes to school with Peter and listens to children read. So who better to have on hand when they arrive one morning to discover that the school’s books have all disappeared! Who could have taken them? And why? There’s only one dog for the job and Detective Dog Nell is ready to sniff out the culprit!

rachel-jolly-postmanThe Jolly Postman by Janet Ahlberg

A delightful postbag of real letters for you to open and read.

rachel-alans-teethAlans Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis

Meet Alan, an alligator with a secret. Famed for his big, scary teeth, he sneaks into the jungle every day to scare the jungle animals. But after a long day of scaring, Alan likes nothing better than to run a warm mud bath and take out his false teeth, which nobody knows about! That is, until his teeth go missing. What will Alan do now? Scaring is the only thing he knows how to do! Can he still be scary without them?

rachel-fredFred by Mick and Chloe Inkpen

‘Fetch!’ and ‘Sit!’ and ‘Stay!’ I understand them all. Those are the words I know. But what is ‘Fred’? Fred the dog may not know his name yet or how to stay out of trouble, but one little boy will love him no matter what. A follow-up to ‘I Will Love You Anyway’, this touching rhyming story is full of friendship and tail wagging, and will touch a chord with all children who love pets.

rachel-snowmanThe Snowman by Raymond Briggs

One winter’s night, a snowman comes to life and an unforgettable adventure begins. Raymond Briggs’ favourite classic is a true piece of Christmas magic – narrated entirely through pictures, it captures the wonder and innocence of childhood and is now recognised throughout the world.

rachel-night-before-christmasThe Night before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’. Clement Moore’s popular festive poem about a visit from Santa Claus is a delight to share with children.

rachel-swanSwan: the life and dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder